Last night I was on the phone with my beloved and he asked a seemingly innocent question that was loaded with other junk. I love him, but I can’t say that he is the most tactful person in the world.
He asked me why I needed to tell everyone I was an atheist. He had concluded that nobody really needed to know because it’s not that hard to just not pray when we do family prayers or back away from conversations where believers are judging non-believers. So he wanted to know why I wanted to rock the boat.
I guess it’s a fair question. I mean, I didn’t have to go around telling people I was Christian when I was a believer. But that’s just the problem! In my world at least, Christian is a default setting. Atheists are scary devil-worshipers. I am not trying to be funny because I used to believe this myself about atheists. That’s what everyone I know thinks about atheists. Mike Moore, a fellow blogger, has even written about how atheists are viewed as pawns of the devil to believers. I’ve tried to explain to some Christians that I know that I don’t worship the devil now. Seems a little bit unnecessary seeing as though I don’t believe in him.
So what does this all have to do with my husband’s loaded question?
I don’t really have to tell anyone about my decision. That would actually be pretty easy. I could mentally check out of religious conversations with a few head nods. I can bow my head out of respect for those praying. I did that stuff for a couple of years already. It would be easy to hide behind a thin veil of faked faith… people do it all the time.
But coming out is important to me. I’ve never really liked being a liar. I’ve always been the most honest person I know. I don’t cheat or steal or play “the system” because moralistically speaking, I know that if we all did that then everyone would suffer. Taking the easy way out is a form of misrepresentation (lying).
“So why don’t you just wait until people ask you why you’re not praying and tell them then?” said the husband.
The answer to that question is hard for a believer to understand. I want to represent non-believers. I want my friends and family to know that they know an atheist and that I’m a good person. This is genuinely important to me and I know it won’t be comfortable or easy most of the time.
My goal is to make it easier for people to come out.
Before I ever told anyone I was an atheist I researched a lot. I looked up religions, just as I’ve said before. But the thing that gave me the courage to commit to the atheist label was the social media searches I did. I looked up atheist, atheism, and humanist. I read the rants and the arguments and the jokes about believers. I read the commentary of other atheists that were just as afraid to come out to their loved ones. I found community in the anonymity of the internet. I was able to make the commitment because other atheists had come out. They had views like me and the same frustrations with religion. When I commented on posts and pictures, they replied back with support and empathy.
One day I hope to be that community for other brave souls.
I’ll never push my lack of belief on someone else, but if someone has questions I want them to be able to come to me. And I want them to be able to tell other believers that they know a real, live atheist that doesn’t worship the devil. Hopefully I can provide that lesson to believers that I know at the cost of my comfort in their ignorance of what I am.
That’s why I have to come out. It’s not for me. It’s for people on the fence who are ready to renounce their religion but don’t want to be alone.